Circles of Life

Illustration for TIME by Montse Bernal. Roy: Colin McPherson / Corbis

Anuradha Roy, a publisher based mostly in New Delhi, sets her first novel, An Atlas of Impossible Longing, during the Indian subcontinent's most momentous years. Between 1907, when the novel opens, and its conclusion circa 1956, the subcontinent saw the struggle for independence and tragedy of partition. But these impinge on Roy's tale of private lives subtly, almost as noises offstage — for the novel is above all a love story.

It opens with a first-person voice describing a sepia photograph. This voice then disappears from the novel until, in...

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